says its November U.S. sales rose 3.4% but warns it could cut production this month at its fullsize-truck assembly plants to avoid discounts and trim bloated inventories ahead of next year’s launch of redesigned models.
GM dealers delivered 186,505 units in November, compared with 180,402 year-ago, according to WardsAuto data. The auto maker calls the month its best November since 2007.
But sales of its fullsize pickups declined in November, with the Chevrolet Silverado off 10.4% to 30,674 units and the GMC Sierra down 2.0% to 11,726. Sales of its large SUVs also suffered double-digit decreases across the board.
The poor truck month did little to alleviate GM’s inventory pressures in the segment. The auto maker wants to finish the year with 200,000-220,000 large pickups in stock. GM wrapped up November with 245,853 units in inventory, or nearly 10,000 higher than October. The days’ supply swelled to 139 on Nov. 30 from 110 at the close of October.
GM’s total large-truck stocks of an estimated 486,000 units and a days’ supply of 103 are both post-bankruptcy highs for the auto maker, according to WardsAuto data.
GM blames the increase on the combination of an early ’13-model launch for its large trucks and its refusal to match high incentive spending by rivals looking to pare inventories of ’12 models.
GM launched its ’13 trucks about 35 days earlier than the rest of the industry.
All options are on in December, says Kurt McNeil, GM’s chief sales analyst. But production cuts appear to rank ahead of using incentives to clear dealer lots of the trucks.
“In December, we will see seasonally higher sales and low production, given the holidays,” McNeil tells journalists and Wall Street analysts during a conference call today to discuss GM’s November results.
“Having said that, we will continue to use all levers to influence inventories on a go-forward basis. That includes, first and foremost, adjusting production as well as marketing activity,” he says, adding later, “At the end of the day we want to be known for great products, not great incentives.”
J.D. Power says GM pickup incentives in November were the lowest in the industry for the third consecutive month, and 60% of the vehicles it sold last month were ’13 models, compared with 35% atand 10% at .
McNeil expects the mix to turn in GM’s favor this month. December historically is a brisk sales month for the industry and assembly plants see downtime over the holidays. “December should be an all-new ballgame.”
Mark Reuss, president-GM North America and the architect of a production plan focused on building strictly to demand, reiterates intentions to avoid short-term jolts to the marketing plan.
“We’ve found adjusting incentives to our competition on a short-term basis is highly ineffective,” he says. “You don’t want to flood confusion into the market, as well. We’re trying to run this on a longer-term, strategic basis than just matching people in the market on a short-term basis every time someone moves.”
GM’s large-pickup plants in Flint, MI; Fort Wayne, IN; and Silao, Mexico, each are running on three shifts. The auto maker is expected to add a third shift to its Arlington, TX, large SUV plant in January to alleviate heavy use of overtime.
Looking more closely at GM’s November sales results, deliveries at its volume Chevrolet brand were flat at 128,867 units. Bright spots included the Cruze compact car, which saw a gain of 27% to 16,807 units, and an increase of 11.6% for the Sonic subcompact to 5,016. Sales of the popular Equinox 5-passenger cross/utility vehicle rose 12.6% to 16,821.
The closely watched Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle increased deliveries 33.4% to 1,519 units, although the total was nearly half its October volume.
Chevy sales chief Alan Batey blames the month-to-month drop on an inventory pinch, especially in California where many customers are awaiting delivery of the Volts. Stocks nationally are just getting to adequate levels, he says, forecasting sales of the car to return to the 2,500- to 3,000-unit range in December.
Cadillac demand jumped 30.3% to 14,517 units in the month. The newly launched ATS compact sports sedan and XTS fullsize sedan provided the punch on deliveries of 2,152 and 2,414 units, respectively. Chase Hawkins, head of sales for Cadillac, says ATS models with the volume 2.0L 4-cyl. turbo engines are just reaching dealers, and early trade-in data show the car is drawing buyers from Mercedes and.
“The marks we’ve targeted, we’re hitting.” Hawkins says.
Buick sales increased 22.1% to 13,289 vehicles. Deliveries of the 1-year-old Verano compact car totaled 3,574 units and sales of the newly redesigned Enclave large CUV grew 22.8% to 4,817.
GMC sales finished the month up 1.2% to 29,832 units.
GM finishes November with total inventories of 788,194 cars, trucks and CUVs.
The auto maker also confirms expectations for industry sales to finish the year at the high end of its forecast of 14.0 million-14.5 million units.